Breaking the Silence: Reevaluating What Makes an Experience a Trauma
Avigail Gordon & Kate Szymanski
Trauma theorists have long debated the best way to define a traumatic event or experience. This chapter argues that trauma survivors should be consulted in the formulation of the construct. It examines existing definitions, including those based on the physical parameters of the event, the existential impact of the experience, and the repercussions of the event for the sense of self. It further explores characteristics of trauma narratives and the debate over the prevalence of the term trauma in social discourse. We conducted a study that included survivors’ assessments of traumatic experiences based on a variety of definitions. We found that the most salient aspects of trauma appear to be the sense of helplessness, and the change to worldview and self-view. Implications for diagnosis and treatment are discussed, and an expanded understanding of trauma is suggested.
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